Reviewed regularly on this blogsite are: (1) bird identification guides, visual and sonic; (2) books about living with birds or caring for rescued birds; and (3) alcoholic beverages named after birds.  They are well-worthy of review because all of them can be of direct practical use to birders in their birdly pursuits.

What about books of fiction?  Direct practical use, maybe not so much, but still worthy of a birder’s interest, to the extent they deal with avifauna in one way or another.

The Edge, by Jamie Collinson, is pitched as “an LA novel of sex, drugs, alt-rock, and birds,” but the role of birds and birding in the story, as opposed to the other three referenced pastimes, is minimal.  Still, writing a novel is a hard thing, and novelists appreciate and deserve notice, and the writing and reading of novels ought to be encouraged generally.  We have a culture to maintain here.

So, a review of the book, a short one, is still a legitimate use of this blogspace, no?

The protagonist is Adam Fairhead, a Brit in Los Angeles who runs a record company.  His co-workers, bosses, girl- and boyfriends are all of the type termed “vile bodies” by Evelyn Waugh in his 1930 novel of that title, concerning a different time and place but the same milieu, one of vapid and overindulgent, morally centerless young people.  Adam is weary to death of the scene, and of his painful memories, and of what he is coming to suspect is a wasted existence – but by the end he (mostly) escapes.

(Curiously, the main character in Vile Bodies is also named Adam – but there is no other perceptible connection between that book and this one.)

But you want to know about the birds.

There’s not that much, really.  Ospreys make a couple of appearances, but not enough to constitute a metaphor.  A Burrowing Owl makes one appearance, and does constitute a metaphor in that Adam thinks “I am a burrowing owl.”  Adam’s love interest, Erica, notes that it took her years to be able to distinguish Cooper’s Hawks from Sharp-shinned Hawks — and amen to that, sister.  And Adam likes to go birding in Ernest E. Debs Park, “about as wild as a city park could be.”

From the photos on this Modern Hiker website, it does, indeed, look like a swell place.

One need not be an aficionado of the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll literary genre (this reviewer is not) or even very familiar with it (again, this reviewer is not) to say that The Edge must be the very epitome of it.  Perhaps the book is, as satire, not quite in the same league with Evelyn Waugh, but it is ably done nevertheless – a nice skewering of people at parties debating which yoga studio, Atwater, Culver City, or Echo Park, etc., is the best; and of the young intern who wears a white privilege badge, to remind herself that she’s white, and privileged.

The Edge is, apparently, Collinson’s first book.

As of this writing, it appears, from this City of Los Angeles website, that, however lovely Ernest E. Debs Park may be, however swell a place it is to go birding, you can’t.  Not now.  It’s closed, “RELATED TO THE CITY’S SAFER AT HOME DIRECTIVES AND THE LA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS FOR THE CONTAINMENT OF COVID-19.”

Pray God all this ends soon.

 

 

The Edge.  By Jamie Collinson.  Oneworld Publications, London, 352 pp., $26, February 11, 2020.  ISBN 978-1-78607-715-8 / ISBN 978-1-78607-691-5 (ebook)

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Written by Mark Gamin
Mark Gamin is a lawyer, writer, and editor. He became a birder at Antioch College, where he studied with the ornithologist Jim Howell, and first saw the secretive Virginia Rail. Physically Mark is resident in Cleveland, but in his mind he is often at his small farm in Appalachian Ohio, on the very edge of civilization.